Three weeks ago, the Timberwolves seemed prepared to replace reinjured Chase Budinger for the coming weeks or months with a player already signed or one invited to their training camp.
This week, after having four preseason games and a week’s break to contemplate, Wolves coach Rick Adelman said he and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders are looking at all options — trade, free-agent signing, in-house promotion — to find someone who can back up Corey Brewer at small forward until Budinger returns from another knee surgery.
Does that mean he’s already decided that playing slimmed-down Derrick Williams there won’t work?
“No, we’re trying to play him at both spots and see where we’re going,” Adelman said. “We’re playing other people there. We’re just watching. I have to make some decision about who’s going to play behind Corey there. Right now, I’m really not sure how we’re going there.”
Williams lost as much as 15 pounds over the summer, slimming down to 235 pounds in an attempt to play more at small forward because two-time All-Star Kevin Love is back healthy this season at Williams’ more natural “stretch” power-forward position.
“I think we need to keep looking at our wings and see who can play,” Adelman said. “Chase getting hurt left us shorthanded. We’re looking at all players we have, not just guys here. Flip’s constantly talking to people around the league. We’re evaluating everything. It’s a process you go through and you make that decision sometime next week. It’s not just this group, it’s what else is going [on] around the league and how can we improve our team.”
Saunders and Adelman want Williams to play harder, with what Saunders calls a “higher motor” even though he almost admits Williams is a young player (23) who will need more time to develop before the Wolves can determine just what and who he is in the frontcourt.
“You don’t learn that in a couple weeks,” Saunders said.
The Wolves have until October’s final week to guarantee Williams’ $6.6 salary for the 2014-15 season. With their payroll already stretched well over the salary cap, the Wolves aren’t likely to just let a former No. 2 overall pick and a $6.6 million asset walk away for nothing in return come next summer, even if Williams’ future might not be in Minnesota.
Williams said he believes he is doing fine this preseason playing both forward positions.
“Definitely,” he said. “I’m making shots. I’m rebounding the ball pretty well. I’m picking my spots to score and attacking the rim. I think that’s what Coach wants from me. I don’t think I’ve taken too many threes this preseason so far. I’m not really focusing on shooting the ball too much. I’m just focusing on the defensive strategies we have and working on that.”
He lost weight so he could better play small forward, but has found himself playing at power forward with a second unit that includes rookies and training-camp invitees during the team’s four preseason games so far.
“Sometimes it’s a little challenging playing there, depending on who we play,” he said. “I’m just moving a little quicker, using it to my advantage and attacking the rim.”
When asked if he expected to play more at small forward, he said: “I don’t really look at it like that. We still do have a lot of guys on the team. Everybody has to have a fair opportunity to try and make the team. I don’t really look at it as I’m bouncing back and forth. I know both spots. It’s not like my first year where I didn’t know what spot I’d play. I’ve been taking time to learn both and it really has been helping.”